NSW in world first trial of fully autonomous bus

The NSW government is set to launch the world’s first trial of a driverless automated shuttle bus.

The electric-powered, autonomous Busbot has been running in Coffs Harbour with a supervisor on board since December 2018 in partnership with Coffs Harbour City Council, operator Busways and driverless technology provider EasyMile.

More than 10,000 people were involved in that trial which has been operating around the harbour’s northern breakwall, at a retirement village and the Botanic Gardens.

The next stage of the trial will see a fully driverless, remotely monitored vehicle operate at the Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens, Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced at a media conference on Tuesday.

Paul Toole (R) with Busways Managing Director Byron Rowe at the announcement of the autonomous shuttle bus trial on March 30, 2021.

Mr Constance said advances in AI will see a shift to public transport system that is driven by the customer rather than the government and based on a ‘turn up and go’ model.

“Transport for NSW is going to the best in the world when it comes to transport and technology,” he told a media conference.

“With advent of autonomous vehicles people aren’t going to drive cars in the future, they’re going to subscribe to their transport service. It will affect our planning system, our urban design, the way in which our energy is used.”

Regional transport Minister Paul Toole said regional NSW was pioneering new transport technology and feedback from the recent Coffs trial had been positive.

He said the next phase in the trial marked the first time an automated passenger bus had reached the fully driverless testing milestone.

“Today we’re announcing the first driverless shuttle,” he said. “To have a bus like this with no driver, with no supervisor, is important for these communities.”

Deputy secretary of customer strategy and technology Joost de Kock said automated buses would complement the state’s public transport network while reducing pollution and congestion.

“These automated vehicle trials are really important for us to learn more about how we use these technologies as part of our future technology direction,” he said.

The trial will roll out in the coming months.

Australia has numerous driverless trials underway and in 2016 launched the Smart Innovation Centre to partner with council and industry to further driverless technology.

The centre is currently also running trials at Sydney Olympic Park and Armidale.

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